tv The Communicators CSPAN May 2, 2016 8:00am-8:31am EDT
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>> guest: that was created almost 20 years ago, it went along with the v-chip that allows participants to block inappropriate content for their children. what we did, we looked to see the every cat i of the -- efficacy of the program itself, is it accurately warning parents about age-inappropriate material? our findings were that it's not. is the systemically, we think, broken, in need of repair. we found there is a blurring between tv-14 and tv-pg. there is, actually, no show on broadcast television, no series on broadcast television today that is rated appropriate for anything older than children. tv-14 is the oldest rating. even the most explicit content on prime time broadcast tv is rated as appropriate for
children to watch. we learned that the tv networks themselves rate the shows, and we've learned that the tv advertisers who pay the bills for the networks rely on the ratings just like parents do. and so there's a conflict of interest in terms of rating content accurately. a lot of advertisers won't sponsor mature audience only content, therefore, the tv networks don't rate anything as appropriate for mature audiences, and the system is incapable of doing as it was intended. >> host: so you're acing that the ratings -- saying that the networks that the ratings give their -- the ratings that the networks give their shows are inaccurate? >> guest: they're inconsistent. and there's no transparency for parents to understand what those ratings mean. if they're concerned about the accuracy of a ratings system, who are they cocomplain to? actually, there's an oversight board comprised of the same executives who rate the programs wrong to begin with. that doesn't look like oversight to me.
>> host: well, let's bring david shepardson into this conversation, he's a reporter with thomson reuters, and he covers these matters. >> you mentioned there hasn't been a g-rated program in prime time since 2008 when, i think, "the price is right" was on. is that a reflection of where tv is today, or does it suggest that the networks are just not interested in having that type of programming? >> guest: i think the latter. what's interesting, we're now, like you said, almost a decade now since we had the last regularly-scheduled series rated g. in the last few week, we have a new one. it's called "little big shots." it's on nbc, and it is winning its time slot. it shows there still is a market for family-friendly -- as long as it's well produced and well, you know, good production value. there is a huge market more this. i think that the networks tend to, i spent 15 years myself at nbc. i don't know anybody who intentionally tries to hurt children or tries to just push the envelope or envelope pushing
sake, but they're a lemming mental the city. and when they see something that's out there that's successful, they try to make it more edgy, more provocative, and they've gotten away from broadcasting to the word, broad, a broad market. and, unfortunately, tv-g has pretty much become a dinosaur except for, fortunately, this one show recently. >> is that a reflection of the fact that with cable, you know, hbo, showtime, so on, that consumers have so many options already for more explicit shows, the networks felt pressure to maybe compete more directly with the cable shows? >> guest: oh, it's ironic that the broadcast networks feel a need to compete with the cable network that the broadcast networks own. [laughter] it's the consolidation of media ownership today. you have five or six companies that open not only the broadcast networks, but also most of the most-watched cable networks. but the reality is you're still using public airwaves. it's supposed to be a broad, a broadly -- broad audience. broadcasting.
so, certainly, they feel a pressure to compete to try to find a way to get an audience. i think they believe that the best way to get a bigger audience for broadcast is to be more like cable. our belief is the more you're like cable, you're going to yet a cable network rating. >> host: mr. winter, what are the restrictions on the networks when it comes to prime time or at any time of their programming? >> guest: in terms of the content? >> host: sure. >> guest: there is still the fcc's broadcast indecency law that has been on the books now for decades, and as recently -- >> host: so-called seven words? >> guest: that was the original case, the george carlin seven dirty words case which was the tv networks attempted to throw out as unconstitutional, the broadcast indecency enforcement, a few years ago. and the supreme court chose not to throw out that statute, and it's still good law, and it was enforced as recently as a year ago when a tv station in roanoke, virginia, aired a hard
core pornography clip, they said by accident, but it did air on the public airwaves at times when children are in the viewing audience. it's, to our knowledge, still good law and still being enforced. >> host: again, what exactly are the restrictions? does it begin at a certain hoursome. >> guest: yes. >> host: is it nudity? is it violence? >> guest: it is content that describes in patently offensive terms sexual -- violence is not part of the broadcast indecency law. there are some that would argue that the harm that comes to children from watching violent media is even greater than the sexually-explicit content. the research we've seen is that both have an impact on children, but right now the law only effects sexual or excra story content only between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. so after 10 p.m. the broadcasters are free to air whatever they choose as long as it's not legally obscene. >> what about the argument from the broadcasters that, you know, parents have the v-chip, and they have a lot of control over
what their children watch? isn't that enough to prevent kids from watching things they shouldn't be watching? >> guest: it's one very important resource. we don't think it's the sum total of all the remedy that should be out there. broadcast indecency enforcement is important. at certain times of the day, if you want to air stuff that would be legally indecent, wait until 10:00, and buck do so without any consequence -- and you can do so without any consequence. but the argument about the v-chip shoally as -- solely as a solution is flawed because it requires the content rating system to be accurate in order to work. if, you know, i would -- we knew there was a problem, and i know that the audience here watching this, there probably aren't too many children in the audience, so if i could use a little bit of a spirited language, we knew there was a problem when we saw a show that was rated as appropriate for children with a sexual intercourse scene on cable, rated as appropriate for children, and during the the scene the woman said to the man, and
"stick your finger in my ass," rated as appropriate for children. i don't think that is appropriate for children. we actually took it to the network, we took it to the tv oversight monitoring board which is this board here in washington that's supposed to make sure the system is doing its job, and they shrugged. they said, well, it's all subjective. the reason you have oversight is to try to make things as objective as you possibly can. if the ratings system is going to be subjective based upon each network, if each network is going to implement a different age rating and they're going to rate it differently, how can a v-chip do its job? it can't. >> and along with that, what about the argument that parents have even more control because so many parents are using an ipad or dvr to, basically, have much more control over what their kids watch because they're picking out the shows, they're recording them as opposed to just letting them turn on a it's. >> guest: time shifting is a huge issue as it relates to the parents' council and trying to serve the public.
what used to be on was on a certain time of day, and then it was done. now you can record it and play it back with the touch of a control. that is certainly a challenge. as it relates to the content on other devices and, you know, my friends in hollywood at the tv networks know even greater than i do the consequence to their business from people going to streaming, the cord cutters and so forth. it is probably the hardest point in time for a parent to be a parent when it comes to the media choices for their children right now. there is so much out there that's way more explicit than they'll see on television. that's why it's so important for the hardware and software manufacturers to provide gating tools, parental control devices on these systems so that there can be at least some modicum of security for their children. it's impossible to get all of it, but let's -- i think it's important for us to try. >> host: tim winter, what else besides the v-chip, in your view, could work, could help parents? >> guest: we've talked to a
number of academicians in the united states who are experts in the field of impact of media on children and content ratings. they have recommended a number of different remedies, one of which is -- i don't personally advocate it because i don't know enough about it yet, but one that's really interesting, apparently the dutch government has a system whereby every single piece of media content whether it's motion pictures, television, video games, music is subject to one single rating system that parents can understand and adopt. it's not one for movies, one for tv, one for music and one for video games. i think consistency would be very, very helpful. this oversight is also very concerning to me. what does an oversight board look like? it shouldn't be just the industry executives running the asylum. >> host: well, where does the fcc fall into this oversight? >> guest: the fcc has the authority to accept or reject in total the report and order that was created 20 years ago that
created the v-chip, content ratings system and the oversight monitoring board. but there is no public accountability for this oversight monitoring board. i think the fcc could adopt some changes that bring, shed some light, that would allow not just the industry executives to determine what's appropriate or not, but bring more voices from the outside, academicians, experts, child psychology experts, experts in the scientific field who can see what's harmful, what's not and provide their input. absent a system that, absent the oversight that is required to really look and see is the system truly working, it has to be independent, and right now it's not. >> what about -- again, back to the cable issue. the argument there's so many channels on, you know, on the box now for kids. i mean, there's, you know, pbs kids, nickelodeon, many, many good options of clearly family-rated programming. given that so many consumers can pick those shows for their kids, why is it necessary sort of on the broadcast networks to have
those type of shows? and given societal trends, setting a aside the issue of whether shows are properly rated, are the networks going to return to, you know, "little house on the prairie," "murder, she wrote," more geared to the family when everybody has their own screen to watch? >> guest: yep. having so many media choices is a wonderful thing. as a parent myself, you know, it gives us an infinite number of possibilities. well, not infinite, but certainly a large number of possibilities to choose from. but that doesn't mean that everything necessarily is family-friendly. we saw content on nickelodeon where it was a cartoon that included stripper poles. and this is prime time marketed to children on nickelodeon. stripper poles? it's -- so it's not always clean just because it's on nickelodeon. the tv content rating system is supposed to apply to every single television network whether it's cable or broadcast. it's one standard, it should be one standard, so let's make it work. the other thing that we advocate
for is cable un3wu7bding. let consumers pick and choose which networks they want to pay for ratherren than being forced to pay for 100, 200, 500. there's been some argument wouldn't that be cheaper, more expensive? we think anytime the consumer marketplace can choose for itself what products they want to purchase, prices tend to go down. if you go to the newsstand, you don't have to buy the washington times if you want "the washington post", and we think it should be the same way on cable x that would also provide a means by which parents can filter out stuff they don't want coming into their home. >> host: why do you think that all the g-rated programs are off the air at this point or not being aired on the broadcast networks? >> guest: having spent a big port of my -- portion of my career working for the tv networks and in hollywood, there is a tremendous, there's a sense of lemming mentality. what does it -- >> host: money?
>> guest: if it were money, i think you'd see more family-friendly. i think it's more of an ego-driven thing on the production level. every producer in hollywood wants to be the cool person at the party. they want to be cool in their peer group. and you're cool in your peer group not by producing "little big shots." you're cool by producing "game of thrones" or, you know, something that is explicit and violent, pushing the envelope, dark, troubled, the antihero, you know, crime serial we see so much of now. and there is a herd mentality. nobody ever gets hired in hollywood for taking what's successful and trying to copy it. you get fired for trying to be bold and innovative and going in a different direction, and it doesn't work. so there is a pressure, i think, on the programming executives and on the producers to keep producing the edgier stuff. >> host: what was your role at nbc and mgm? >> guest: finance business development. so i got to see, you know, i would do the financial books. and what i learned at nbc was it didn't matter really if truly
how many people watched or how many emmy awards you won. what mattered is advertising dollars. and that's why the parents television council is so active reaching out to the sponsors of television programming. what we've learned in years past and even in current months is if you can talk to the sponsors about what their media dollars underwrite and if they say they're a family-friendly advertiser, company, they don't want to be sponsoring the explicit stuff. and so if we can convince the advertisers to steer their dollars away from the more explicit stuff that they don't want to associate their brand with, it either trickles down to some of the more explicit stuff being edited out or being p canceled. >> parents voting with their eyeballs? i know you mentioned the one g-rated show, but do you think parents are demanding this type of programming? >> guest: i think it was "game of thrones" a couple years ago, was it -- oh, no, maybe it was "breaking bad." there was an episode which was
the water cooler talk program around the country, so the media reports went. actually, the finale of "breaking bad" didn't quite top another show which was on the air which was a repeat of "i love lucy" from 50 years ago. so the reality of the matter is this stuff still has a marketplace if it's good quality. so many people in hollywood think of family-friendly as hold your nose, it's not really high production value. if you produce it well, if it's high production value and well written, well acted, well directed, people will turn out in throngs to watch something positive. think about the most highly rated events on live television, these broadway show, you know, the sound of music a couple years ago, there was another one just recently, was it the wiz? >> guest: yeah. >> guest: so it shows there's a huge audience for this, and there are very i few options especially on broadcast. >> but is there a disconnect? hollywood has made many, many movies for kids. seems like there's been dozens
and dozens of movies for kids, but yet why does that sort of focus on family entertainment at the movie theater? maybe not also on the small screen. >> guest: there is, i believe, a similar mentality on the production and distribution side. the g-rated movies, the pg-rated movie, the disney pixar movies, blockbuster after blockbuster. when you look at what are the highest rated, the highest box office motion pictures, almost every year there will be a superhero movie or two where there's intense action, sometimes violence, but year after year it's the movies that are really well produced that the whole family can enjoy together that make the most money. pg-13 movies -- pg movies make a lot more money than the r-rated movies, but there's many more r r-rated movies produced. why is that? well, i think the folks in town, that's what they like to produce. >> host: tim winter, there are several different ratings that are available for broadcasters,
and this -- your study, again, is focused just on the broadcast networks, correct? >> guest: yes, that's correct. >> host: tv-g, pg, ma, 14. do you think that those need to be updated, those actual ratings? i know you've talked about having one standard for them, but are there enough ratings? do they need more? do they need fewer? >> guest: great question. i think that the ratings, if they were more clearly defined, if they were more transparent, if they were more easily understood, i think the categories they have are fine. you know, the analogy we're using with our research report, most of us have gone into a supermarket to buy something. we grab a box, we look at the back to see what the ingredients are. how much fat content, what are the calories, what are the ingredients? because we're going to ingest these things. we rely on that accuracy on the back of that box s and so, too, should we will relying on the
accuracy of a ratings system. we've seen academic researching that shows what the content is what parents want. let them make the decision whether it's appropriate for their children, using an around train 13, 14,pg may have some complications to it. certainly, there could be improvements. and what we're hoping is, what we'd love to see is a hearing in congress, at the fcc, bring in the experts and let's see how 20 years of this system how effective it's been. let's see if it's working, if it's not working, and let's bring in independent commentators to the table to see if there's room for improvement. >> host: who wrote the report? >> guest: dr. gildameister, ph.d.. we have digital recording devices that record all the broadcast networks every night, a number of cable networks. analysts come in the next morning and will watch what aired last night.
people think, oh, you're watching television for a job, what fun. it's not. you're locking every in-- logging every instance of profanity, drug use, sexual activity, you're logging all this into a database. we use that on our web site so parents can make more informed choices for themselves to see what's on, what content am i likely to see. the public education aspect is why we're in business. it's the biggest expense line we have. >> host: david shepardson. >> do you think they should be more prescriptive in terms of saying what exactly can and cannot be shown for a ma or 14 rating? >> guest: it's an interesting question, and i really like the way you phrased it. to suggest what can or can't be shown is in the united states of america a toxic sentence. no one wants to be censorious. no one. we try to have for certain content a time and a place where you can on certain venues, public airwaves, you know, you can't. cable, you can.
over the internet, you can. so you don't want to talk about what can or can't be done. but there has to be, i think, greater attention. the broadcasters are using the public airwaves valued by some at as much as half a trillion dollars' worth of public value. they're using those airwaves for free. and there are very few restrictions, but they're supposed to serve the public interest. the public interest is what they're supposed to use those broadcast airwaves for. entertainment certainly serves the public interest. one of the stipulations is don't be indecent before 10:00 at night. so if you're going to not be indecent, at least rate the content accurately. >> host: well, tim winter, the networks have not really gotten indecent past 10 p.m., have they? >> guest: certainly. certainly, they have. and there have been instances, i mean, howard stern was on the television, with his radio show for a number of years later at night. he's certainly allowed to do
that after 10:00 at night on the public airwaves. we see episodes of "saturday night live" that increasingly push the content envelope. so they certainly aren't obscene. they know not to be obscene, but the reality is they have tremendous freedom to do almost anything they could possibly want in terms of content after 10. they do still face the pressure of the advertisers. some advertisers are uncomfortable sponsoring certain types of material. we've seen cable network shows, some that were rated ma on cable networks, make it to late night broadcast television. sometimes they're edited out for a little bit of the most extreme stuff. again, mostly because of the advertiser pressure, not because of f, fcc pressure. >> but do you -- well, how much do you think advertisers care about, you know, and are they listening to parents? how active do you think parents are or people many general in urging advertisers not to support shows that are more graphic? >> guest: we have varying degrees of relationships with
about 300 different corporate advertisers. i would say 75-100 i would say we have very solid relationships. if i call, they pick up the phone, they want to have a dialogue. they don't always agree with us, but they're eager to hear our point of view. most of these ceos are family people, and they don't want to support this type of stuff. but you also at a corporate sponsor level, you hire an ad agency. the ad agency looks at gross rating points, what's the demographic, and they find a gross rating point demographic, and they buy the show without looking to see what the content is of that show. would toyota buy, on a tv show that then makes fun of toyota or talks about how bad their product is? no. at some level, they are concerned about the content, but they abdicate their authority to the ad agency. they get money, they have to spend it x that's how they get their commission. the agency isn't so concerned about aligning a corporate brand with content on television. the corporation is. and frequently, the corporation
doesn't even know what they're buying. we'll go to shareholder meetings of publicly-traded corporations and ask the ceo eyeball to eyeball in front of the shareholders, here's what you sponsored. is this what you stand for? almost 100% of the time, well, we didn't know that was the case. and almost 100% of the time they look into it, and they will reconsider that media buy decision. there are some that don't care. famously, lahr d.c. and carl -- hardee's and carl's jr. restaurant, taco bell seem very interested to reach young males even if it means sponsoring very explicit content. but those are very few and far between. most corporations are responsible, they want to be careful. they don't want to align their brand -- and there's research that shows that they shouldn't align their brand with explicit material that viewers, viewers of explicit television shows don't remember the sponsor's name being advertised. there's scientific research that shows that. something happens in the brain where you're excited about what
you're seeing, the commercial wreak comes -- break comes, and you don't remember what's advertised. so it's good business for the sponsors to sponsor family-friendly programming. >> host: tim winter, many shows feature gay characters today. "modern family" has a gay family. is that something you rate as well? >> guest: no. >> host: just sex and violence? >> guest: yeah. we don't distinguish sexual behavior by gender. the research we've seen is that it's the sexual behavior that is, has an impact on children. the gender is not of concern to us. >> host: let's go to the accountability that you've talked about that this is a closed system, that the people who are creating the ratings are judging the ratings as well. >> guest: yes. >> host: who would you like -- how would you like to see that rejiggered? >> guest: right now you have a 24-member body. again, the fcc report and order that created this oversight monitoring board, 24 individuals.
a chairman who rotates between the cable lobby, the broadcast lobby and the motion picture lobby. so the chairman of the npaa rotate as chair. there are 18 industry executives, and there are supposed to be 5 public interest individuals. to our knowledge -- and i've only been to one meeting, but the conversations i've had, all those five aren't filled, and who gets to approve who those five individuals are? well, let's see, television industry executive who gets to appoint which public interest advocates are on the board. it should be more even. there should be more scientists involved, more psychologists, clinical psychologists, child psychologists who are aware of the impact of media on children. and there should be some consequence if there is continued misrating. if the industry executive who misrates things sits on the board and says there's no problem here, please move along, there can be no accountability. there's no consequence for what i think is -- i don't know if
it's actually intentional, but it sure is, maybe it's just de facto. it's misleading. it's fraudulent. >> what about the argument that this more aggressive enforcement of the ratings would be inhibiting the creative freedom of people in hollywood and that, you know, there would be, you know, people -- authors would be forced or creators would be forced to move shows to cable or motion pictures and that? the overall, the shows on tv would become, you know, not as edgy or whatever you want to say as they are today? diswhrk. >> guest: harming the creative community? >> right. >> guest: you can produce whatever you want to produce, but let's rate it accurately. and, you know, beyond just television we've seen evidence of this in motion pictures as well. there was a study by the an nonburg school, i think it was about two years ago, that showed there's actually more gun violence on pg-13 movies than r-rated movies. and there's a couple reasons for that.
one is that the networks -- excuse me, the studios make more money on pg-13 than they do on r, so they will find any way to get the gun violence in there. and the second is there is a desensitization of the ratings, those who rate the content themselves. there's a ratings creep. michael medved said a couple years ago, i thought it was an interesting comment, he said pg-13 should really be called r-13 because it's more r than it is pg. and pg-13 was created because there was a gap between pg and r, there was a lot of wiggle room. there's still wiggle room. how many f-words can you use in pg-13? the answer should be zero, but it's two or three, but not anything more than that. as a parent, you know, either the use of that word is, you know, it's a red line, yes or no. be your family allows that word to be spoken. it's not two or three times is okay and four is bad.
so the ratings creep is something that is certainly happening in motion pictures. i think it's also happening on television. >> host: tim winter's the president of the parents television council which has put out a new report protecting children or protecting hollywood. parents tv.org, you can see the report yourself, david shepardson is with thomson reuters. thank you, gentlemen. >> guest: thank you. >> thanks. in. >> c-span, created by america's cable television companies and brought to you as a public service by your cable or satellite provider. >> today voice of america director amanda bennett delivers keynote remarks at a leadership forum hosted by the usc an nonburg center. there is her first public appearance since being sworn in. live coverage at 12:10 p.m. eastern here on c-span2.
immigration and customs enforcement director sarah saldana testified before the house oversight and government reform committee. members questioned her about why those convicted of violent offenses were released back into the u.s. rather than deported to their country of origin. this portion of the hearing is almost three hours. >> the committee will come to order, and without objection, the chair is authorized to declare a recess at any time. preparing for this hearing has, i'm telling you, it's hard to keep your cool in preparing for this meeting. and let me tell you the heart of why we're here today. immigration customs enforcement, i have met with the men and women who work there, the wonderful, hard working, dedicated people who do a hard and difficult job.